Each of the four gospels tells about the ministry of Jesus, but each comes at the story from a different angle, being aimed at a different audience, and for a different purpose.
Matthew describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as Jesus walking along the sea shore encountering a group of fishermen cleaning up after a night of fishing, and shouting, “Follow me!” Peter, Andrew, James, and John immediately abandon their boats and nets and fall in behind Jesus – seemingly without a clue of who Jesus was or why they were going with Him.
Luke goes into much more detail, starting with Jesus going home with Peter (then called Simon) for a meal and healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. In a later incident, Jesus was teaching one morning along the sea shore where these four fishermen were mending and drying their nets. He asks Peter to take Him in his boat out a short distance from shore so He could speak without the crowds pressing in around him. Peter complies. Afterward, Jesus tells Peter to let his nets down for a catch. Continue reading Stepping Stones
You have heard it said that money is the root of all evil: that is incorrect. Money, wealth, possessions themselves are not evil, but the pursuit of these things: greed, spawns evil. For where our treasure lies, here also will be our heart.
What is treasure?
The traditional image of treasure being chests of coins and jewels is a little archaic for a modern discussion of this topic. Today’s treasure tends to be comprised of things like a fat bank account (modern-day equivalent of a chest of coins), a big fancy home, a snazzy car, a killer wardrobe, and all the latest tech toys. When taken individually they may not seem terribly imposing, but when taken en masse they can indicate a problem.
The real question becomes one of want vs need and where your focus lies. Matthew 6 says: Continue reading Where Your Treasure Lies
Many years ago I built a pair of English Garden Benches to go in a therapy garden at a church. When I delivered them they spoke of having plaques made and attached that quoted Matthew 11:28 “Come unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” I don’t know if that was ever done, but it seemed like a nice idea.
A comfy bench can give rest for the body, but how do we find rest for a weary soul? The rest of the passage quoted above holds the key. Let’s look at that today.
Continue reading Finding Rest for Your Soul
When people are asked what would make them happy, many think of things that involve possessions, wealth, fame, or power. To some, these things bring a fleeting sort of happiness. But pursuit of these things always becomes just that: a pursuit, an on-going chase. A little makes you want more. Then more. And more. This is not happiness.
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus tells his disciples the simple formula for being happy. Let’s take a look at verses 5 through 10. Jesus begins each verse with “Blessed are” (actually the “are”s were added later by translators, originally Jesus said, “Blessed, the meek”, “Blessed, the merciful”) and so on. The word translated as “blessed” is the Greek word, makarios, which means “supremely blesst, fortunate, well-off”. It is closely related to another form, “makarizo” which indicates large in size or length. He is not talking about being a little blessed, but being hugely, supremely blessed! Continue reading How to Be Happy:
According to Jesus
You are probably familiar the story of Christmas, at least as presented in countless school plays about the birth of Jesus all across the world: the virgin Mary has a baby, angels tell shepherds to go see Him and sing of His glory, wise men arrive from far off with gifts to offer in worship to the King of the Jews. Today I’d like to take a closer look at a few details of this account from Matthew chapters 1 and 2.
The Genealogy of Jesus
The account opens with a genealogical listing of the ancestry of Jesus, from Abraham to Joseph. This listing is meaningless to us in the sense that, in our understanding of genetics, none of the people listed are genetic contributors to the baby Jesus because Joseph was not His father: the Holy Spirit was. The only person listed who may have contributed anything genetic is Mary, and that is uncertain. Continue reading Examining the Birth of Jesus
About two weeks ago I engaged in a discussion about evidence that Jesus lived with a fellow through social media. Because it was on social media I was able to record our back and forth verbatim. It was a good discussion: he made some good points and it never degraded into mean-spirited argument (as so many do).
This topic branched off from a discussion with others about how silly religion in general is with all its rules and clouded, conflicting information. Here is our discussion: he is Bruce, I am Doug.
Bruce: So how do you know which parts of the bible, if any, to believe? Perhaps all of it is a creation of men. After all, there is not one single contemporary account that Jesus ever existed, not one. Continue reading Is There Any Evidence That Jesus Lived?
There is a tendency to get caught up with the complexities of church responsibilities: Bible-reading programs, cataloging spiritual gifts, and reading books that offer seven easy steps to this or ten quick steps to achieving that. However, paying too much attention to even good things prevents us from focusing on what really matters: Jesus Christ. We forget to keep it simple.
In 1 John, John says: Let me keep it simple for you; walk with Jesus. Cling to your faith. Stay in the light. When you sin, confess it and move on. Show your love for Jesus by loving your brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is not a modern phenomenon. It was the same when the Apostle John walked the earth. It is why he wrote this book. I have previously written about 1 John as the Quick Start Card for the Bible; the best place for new Christians to start reading the Bible, or for established Christians who have finally decided to start learning their Bible. 1 John 1:4 – 2:2 says: Don’t let go of the joy! Continue reading John Says, “Keep It Simple”
In Hebrews 7, Paul discusses a fellow from ancient Hebrew history: Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the king of Salem (later to be called Jerusalem) and the first priest of the Most High God. Paul opens the discussion with:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
The “slaughter of the kings” was the time Abram (later called Abraham) and 318 of his trained servants went out to rescue Abram’s nephew, Lot, from the combined armies of 5 kings who had invaded their neighbors and carried off the people and possessions of many cities including Sodom, Lot’s home (Genesis 14). Continue reading What of This Melchizedek
There is a school of thought (or church doctrine) which claims that if a Christian messes up they have to go back and get saved again, starting over from square one. And if you drift away from the faith your salvation is revoked and you’re toast.
This thought is based upon Hebrews 6:4-6. Let’s take a look at that.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
When we look at this passage alone, it would seem to support the doctrine of revocable salvation. Churches that hold this idea as a cornerstone of their denominational doctrine point to Hebrews 3:12-14 and 2 Peter 2:20-22 as support for this thought. But it is always dangerous to pull a passage out of Scripture and wave it around to make a point. In fact, there are four doctrinal teachings on this passage. In addition to the one above, we have: Continue reading Revocable Salvation
Mankind has always been, at least in part, an imaginary people. Modern man: more so. The proliferation of social media makes this easy.
To the degree that each of us manages an image, we are imaginary people. If you have a gazillion “friends” or “followers” on social media but those people follow because of a persona you made up and maintain; you are (mostly) an imaginary person. If no one knows what you are really like, then they don’t like you, they like a persona you created.
Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram make it easy for us to build up a particular image. We can forward or re-post funny, encouraging, upbeat things even if we are not funny, encouraging, or up-beat people. On social media we can be what others expect us to be or what we wish we were. But when we put on that mask, we become imaginary people, for we are not representing who we really are inside. Continue reading About Imaginary People